difficulty seeing hitler & nazis for what they were

Port

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
2,100
portland maine
At the onset of his career Howard K. Smith was sent to Germany in 1935 to cover the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. Smith was surprised at how many Americans in Germany were taken by Hitler and the Nazi party. He developed a 4 stage model for understanding this:
Stage 1. “The illusion” a person’s image of Germany is based on the impressions of the cleanliness and order of the society, as well as the friendliness and attractiveness of its people.
Stage 2. I the Energy stage. A person is swept by the energy of the culture, The music, parades, crowds. In Berlin he nightlife and loosening of social structure. Young men in uniform marching with flags, armed The nazi salute being contagious.
Stage 3. Is the realization that all the order is social control and the military posturing has the purpose of training an entire generation to react on reflex without self criticism. To attack common enemies whether civilian or military.
Stage 4. Is the ability to see he terror and fear built into Germany as a Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A fear that asks ,Do democratic nations have the strength to defeat such a dictatorship that intends to destroy and rebuild each country to its needs.
Even by 1936 after Munich, the Ancshluss and Kristallnach Smith and Murrow asked why weren’t more people fearful?
 

Underlankers

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
6,724
I think this has in part to do with the benefits of hindsight. In the wake of the total collapse of 1945 and the revelation of the continental-scale atrocity carried out by Hitler, it's easy to wonder how people missed the Nazi regime as what it would ultimately turn out to be. But we forget that from 1939-41 on the surface it was on a golden stroke that took it from the Pyrenees to the gates of Moscow and Leningrad. While hating Hitler and fearing him makes perfect sense at the level of hindsight, there were plenty of people at the time amazed and bamboozled by his biting off more than he could chew and willing to see the stories of the Holocaust as the Rape of Belgium redux.
 
Sep 2011
24,135
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Those that feared him will have been too scared to openly say so. I am guessing more Germans disapproved of Hitler than we are led to believe, but they kept it to themselves and you only hear about his support.

This type of thing could easily happen in any country given the 'right' set of circumstances. All you need to do is see how some people react to certain news stories, you soon see how prejudice people can be.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,603
Italy, Lago Maggiore
We need also to keep in mind the social cultural contexts of that period [20's / 30's]. The general level of education was still quite low, the rural population out of cities was substantially indifferent to which government leaded the country [to make a parallel with Italian Fascism, farmers in central / south Italy didn't mind which power there was in Rome]. But overall we have to think that the two totalitarian movements [Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany] were the first to use mass medias on large scale to generate a cultural change at global level.

Radio and Cinema news played a huge role in diffusing the image of the dictatorships, in educating adults [children were more easy to "educate", it needed simply to control the schools ...]. Then there was the wise and wide usage of oceanic meetings with great impact on popular imaginary.
 
Jan 2013
798
Charlottengrad
Those that feared him will have been too scared to openly say so. I am guessing more Germans disapproved of Hitler than we are led to believe, but they kept it to themselves and you only hear about his support.

This type of thing could easily happen in any country given the 'right' set of circumstances. All you need to do is see how some people react to certain news stories, you soon see how prejudice people can be.
Well, there was plenty of resistance, open and hidden, against the nazis, see here: [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_resistance]German Resistance to Nazism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

My great-granddad was in the German navy at the time and from what I've heard many people there did not agree with the racial and euthanasia policies and they would talk about it. But they were also patriots and wanted Versailles to be gone, taken back what was lost. So, they ignored the stuff they didn't like and shut up. Also, many people were thankful for the up in economy and thus having a job. Too most it was not clear or they did not want to see where these policies would take them. Ignorance is bliss as they say. People looking at their own little world ignoring what's going on around. My guess is that this was true for a lot of people.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,976
Remember that even the leaders of the time were often not all well educated or travelled. Chamberlain more or less ran most of his foreign policy fairly personally without much reference to the foreign office. Germany Nazism and Russian Bolshevism were both very alien in terms of british society and culture at the time. (the Bolsheviks might well have had a distasteful reputation in Britain among some but there was a lot a propaganda about that, later there was some propaganda about Nazi Germany) There was a belief in chamberlain that the leaders of Germany were Gentlemen (for want of a better term) the sort of amoral ruthlessness was alien, and thus unrecognised, a lot of the Rhetoric and stuff was viewed as that.

The internal Affairs of foreign country were seen as that. Britain had it's own problems and foreign affairs had a very low importance (aside from the Empire!) and a lot of the regular folks jumping up and down about Nazism were the usual suspects (lefties and such)

As the 30s unfolded, Britain was seeking to reduce foreign commitments, and definitely was trying to avoid war, the foreign affairs problems Britain was trying NOT to get involved (there was still the remains of a understandable a horror of war from ww1) and the real politics of appeasement meant that Britain was determinedly looking the other way (Ethiopia, Manchuria) to increase the press coverage by commenting negatively would have been against the appeasement policy which helped sweep the offences of various regimes under the carpet.

For leaders in the west to highlight/negatively comment/to consciously recognise what was going would mean a lot of pressure to act to take unpopular measures, to increase defence spending as the budget was really tight as the great depression was still going. Uncomfortable truths, humans are good and finding excuses not to recognise them.
 
Sep 2011
24,135
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Well, there was plenty of resistance, open and hidden, against the nazis, see here: German Resistance to Nazism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

My great-granddad was in the German navy at the time and from what I've heard many people there did not agree with the racial and euthanasia policies and they would talk about it. But they were also patriots and wanted Versailles to be gone, taken back what was lost. So, they ignored the stuff they didn't like and shut up. Also, many people were thankful for the up in economy and thus having a job. Too most it was not clear or they did not want to see where these policies would take them. Ignorance is bliss as they say. People looking at their own little world ignoring what's going on around. My guess is that this was true for a lot of people.
Yes I agree. Indifference can be quite something in certain circumstances. I recall mentioning in an older thread once about some footage I once saw taken by the Allies of a concentration camp. They rounded up all the local German villagers who were all dressed nice and some were even smiling, they were curious, but they had no clue what they were about to see. The Allies took them to the camp and I think they forced the men to dig graves or something of this nature. Once the Germans saw inside the camp they looked horrified and disturbed by it. Which just shows that they were not necessarily all innately evil people, they were led astray and became indifferent and selfish to their own needs and wants. Like you say, ignoring the horrors so they could carry on with their jobs etc... Though I must point out, even if a person was against the Nazi regime, in this set of circumstances it would take a hell of a lot of courage to go against the Nazis and some people cannot be held responsible for trying to protect their families by fitting in with Hitlers regime. It is all very well to imply any of us would stand gallantly against Hitler, but most of us would not. That's just the way it is. This considering that we had not already been brain washed by the Nazi Party.

Any nationality could end up like this, if a group of people are demonised enough and the people have what they see as 'fit' reasons to hate the said group. It is only a matter of time before the people de-value the lives and welfare of the group - they become sub-human to the people which justifies any cruelty to come. De-humanize a group of people and blame them collectively for some wrongs in the society and it is surprising how many of the 'people' will go along with the type of things which the Nazis did.

It's sad really, but people like to judge and hate others, if they didn't, they wouldn't do so much of it and humans wouldn't be such a violent species.
 

Sicknero

Ad Honorem
May 2012
4,407
Here to Eternity
Yes I agree. Indifference can be quite something in certain circumstances. I recall mentioning in an older thread once about some footage I once saw taken by the Allies of a concentration camp. They rounded up all the local German villagers who were all dressed nice and some were even smiling, they were curious, but they had no clue what they were about to see. The Allies took them to the camp and I think they forced the men to dig graves or something of this nature. Once the Germans saw inside the camp they looked horrified and disturbed by it. Which just shows that they were not necessarily all innately evil people, they were led astray and became indifferent and selfish to their own needs and wants. Like you say, ignoring the horrors so they could carry on with their jobs etc... Though I must point out, even if a person was against the Nazi regime, in this set of circumstances it would take a hell of a lot of courage to go against the Nazis and some people cannot be held responsible for trying to protect their families by fitting in with Hitlers regime. It is all very well to imply any of us would stand gallantly against Hitler, but most of us would not. That's just the way it is. This considering that we had not already been brain washed by the Nazi Party.

Any nationality could end up like this, if a group of people are demonised enough and the people have what they see as 'fit' reasons to hate the said group. It is only a matter of time before the people de-value the lives and welfare of the group - they become sub-human to the people which justifies any cruelty to come. De-humanize a group of people and blame them collectively for some wrongs in the society and it is surprising how many of the 'people' will go along with the type of things which the Nazis did.

It's sad really, but people like to judge and hate others, if they didn't, they wouldn't do so much of it and humans wouldn't be such a violent species.
Terrifingly true, we only have to look at Rwanda and the Balkans for just two very recent examples.

Time was we could all think that "this kind of behaviour is limited to history", now we might think it's limited to other countries and still be wrong.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,812
Australia
I wonder what history will make of the Nazis once they have faded from living memory. Will they be rehabilitated by revisionist historians of the future, much the same way we now accept the barbarism of ancient civilisations along with their achievements? Given that historian of the future will have access to plenty of original material about the Nazi regime this revisionism will hopefully not occur.
 
Last edited:
May 2013
395
Hays Kansas (ex Australian)
I wonder what history will make of the Nazis once they have faded from living memory. Will they be rehabilitated by revisionist historians of the future, much the same way we now accept the barbarism of ancient civilisations along with their achievements? Given that historian of the future will have access to plenty of original material about the Nazi regime this revisionism will hopefully not occur.
Oddly enough I am already seeing this around the internet forums already. There seems to be a growing core of people suddenly wanting to relabel this organisation as a left wing group :zany: